To celebrate (Chris and I), and at the same time commemorate (Caiti and Rors), the last official day of the winter holidays (weekends don’t count), we headed off in the sunshine this morning for another spot of geocaching. It gets us out, we all enjoy it and it’s nice family time. We found 3 out of 4 caches again – a 75% success rate seems to be our specialty these days! It gave my car a little run today, which it needs since on Monday it will be doing a 500 km round trip when we go to collect the Renault from the garage at Faverolles sur Cher, where it’s been since the breakdown last Saturday.

This afternoon we had the plumber out. The chaudière (boiler) for the gîte succumbed to le grand froid, despite Chris’s best efforts to keep it going. The cold was just too much. Le plombier has done what he can for the moment, but Chris still has a few more fuites (leaks) in pipes to fix. He’s been soldering for most of the week. Every time he thinks he’s done the last one, he discovers another one. None of us is over-optimistic that the boiler can be saved. It’s likely the main unit of it has burst in the cold, so we’ll be looking at a new one. Which is bad news this week after discovering that the Renault’s repairs have come to a staggering €2,500. That was a very, very nasty shock. It’s only some kind of electric motor that’s gone wrong in the power steering unit, but the only way to repair it is by replacing the whole steering column. It’s a sealed unit and alone comes to a few cents short of €2,000. That seems absolutely wicked to me. We’ve contacted Renault Ireland (we bought the car before we came here) to complain vociferously about this policy of supplying car parts in big expensive chunks instead of cheaply and separately. It makes us feel a bit better, even if its likely impact is minimal.

Anyway, back to pipes. Once Chris has finished soldering, we’ll be trying the boiler out to see if it still leaks. And if it does, then we need to call the plumber’s colleauge out. He’s the fuite d’eau guy. Our chap today was the broken boiler guy. He was a little out of his comfort zone. Apparently I should have said that there was a leak in it rather than simply declaring it broken on the phone, and then the most appropriate technician would have been sent out. Well, they didn’t ask for specifics, and beyond the fact that elle ne marche pas, I couldn’t really elucidate them further!

The plumber was far from impressed with the original plumbing for the boiler. At the time were a little surprised at the web of pipes leading everywhere, but you rely on a qualified expert to know what he or she is doing. It looks like some of them don’t.

Plum dumb is also the description for the proud headline from the government announcing its wonderful road safety figures for February. At 201 casualties, they’re down a quarter on last February. This ‘historic’ reduction is being attributed to the zillions of new speed cameras that have been going up. Which is crazy. February was the month of le grand froid. Hardly anyone could go anywhere due to the icy roads and the snowdrifts! Several official commentators share this view, and another campaign body sensibly adds that the rocketing cost of fuel is meaning people are driving less. But the government prefers its version!

And talking of politicians, Francois Hollande still wants €2 from me. Not this week, mon brave.